Ueda, Miwa

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Miwa Ueda

(Hyogo, Japan)
Japanese author, illustrator

Miwa Ueda captures the trials and tribulations of teenage romance in her popular manga series titled Peach Girl. Likened to a soap opera for teenagers, Peach Girl—published first in Ueda's native Japan and later in the United States—explores the emotional well-being of high schoolers as they navigate the difficulties of love and friendship, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. Throughout the series, the discussion of sexuality is more explicit than typical Western stories for young people, so it is often recommended for readers over the age of thirteen.

Who is Miwa Ueda?

Born in Hyogo, Japan, Miwa Ueda's life is a bit of a mystery to Western readers. Though she maintains a Japanese language Web site, only one interview and scattered reviews of her translated work appear in English. To know more about Ueda, Englishlanguage readers must consult the brief notes she inserts into the text of her stories. In one such note, Ueda confides with readers that, like the character Momo, she too had been on her high school swim team and had been teased when her skin turned bronze in the sun. Ueda's other notes to readers ranged from laments about her favorite radio station changing its musical format, to a description of her quest to see fireworks on her day off, to her thoughts about her characters.

"[O]f all the characters in the comics I've ever written, Momo is the one who's closest in real life to the way I was when I was young."

Ueda published her first manga in Japan in 1985; called Peach Colored Elixir, it won the Bessatsu Friend Award. (Bessatsu Friend is a monthly manga magazine offering positive stories to high school girls; it is published by Kodansha, one of the biggest manga publishers in Japan.) But it is Peach Girl that has earned her the most popular attention and a huge fan base in the United States. PeachGirl debuted in Japan in 1997, winning the Kodansha Manga Award the following year.

With its success in Japan, Peach Girl soon came to the attention of U.S. publishers, who in the late 1990s began to realize the market for translated versions of Japanese manga. Wanting to offer female comic readers something new, in 2000 Mixx Entertainment started printing monthly English translations of Peach Girl in Smile magazine. The issue in which Peach Girl debuted was the first all shojo (girl) manga magazine printed in the United States. Although the magazine folded in 2003, shojo manga caught on in the American market, and Peach Girl developed a loyal fan base. By that time, shojo manga had gravitated from manga magazines and obscure, specialty comic book stores to the shelves of mainstream bookstores and the Internet. In 2003, TokyoPop, a subsidiary of Mixx, continued U.S. distribution of Peach Girl solely in graphic novel form.

The first Peach Girl graphic novels were published flipped, which meant they were converted to the left-to-right reading format familiar to Western readers. But as the popularity of manga soared in the United States, fans came to prefer the right-to-left reading format used in Japan because it was more authentic. After the eighth volume in the series, published in 2003, TokyoPop began printing Peach Girl in the un-flipped "100-percent authentic manga" format. The graphics looked just like the original Japanese format, and the sound effects were left untranslated. The popularity of these editions prompted TokyoPop to republish the original eight volumes in the traditional manga format as well.

Best-Known Works

Graphic Novels

Peach Girl 8 vols. (2001–03).

Peach Girl: Change of Heart 10 vols. (2003–04).

Exploring more than teenage romance

The Peach Girl story centers around the experiences of high school classmates Momo Adachi, Sae Kasiwagi, Kiley Okayasu, and Toji Tojikamori; various family members and former girlfriends complicate the story and add intrigue. Starting school late due to illness, Momo, a perpetually tanned blonde girl, finds her physical appearance to be a social stigma. Though her skin is bronzed and her hair bleached from her hours spent at swim team practices, people mistake her for a "party" girl who spends her free time at the beach, and consequently she has a hard time making friends. Ueda related having similar feelings when she was young. "I also had a complex about people being scared or intimidated when they saw me," she said in Peach: Miwa Ueda Illustrations. Sae befriends Momo, but as the story progresses readers discover that Sae treats Momo more like an enemy than a friend. Jealous by nature, Sae schemes to steal everything from Momo, from her fashion accessories to her boyfriends. Kiley and Toji are Momo's two male love interests. And it is the shifting nature of the Peach Girl characters' love interests that forms the foundation of Ueda's stories.

On the surface, Peach Girl is an exploration of the natural attractions and jealousies of young love. The love triangles created by the characters' friendships reveal deeper issues of self-acceptance and socially appropriate behavior. Momo, for example, hates her dark skin and feels certain it is the reason she has so few friends. She slathers on lotion to keep from bronzing further. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that Ueda is using Momo's skin color as a device to help illustrate Momo's need to accept herself. As Momo struggles with her self-esteem she shows remarkable compassion and kindness for others' foibles and shortcomings, especially Sae's.

Sae is the character Ueda uses to display incorrect social behavior. Ueda described her intentions for the character in Peach: Miwa Ueda Illustrations: "When it comes to Sae's attitude and actions, there are certain people out there who can say really nice things in front of you, then turn around and say something totally different to someone else. Looks can be deceiving so I wanted to depict the characters as being blind-sided by Sae's true personality." Sae lies, connives, and schemes to ruin almost all Momo's desires: she tells Momo that she should not buy a particular purse only to purchase it herself later, and she uses trickery to convince Toji to stop dating Momo. Few people would tolerate Sae's behavior, but Momo remains a steadfast friend even as she tries to avoid Sae's tendency to hurt her.

Aimed at a female audience, Peach Girl focuses more on the emotional states of Momo and Sae than the male characters. The boys are more often used as props to expose the feelings of either Momo or Sae. This is not to say that Kiley's pining for an old girlfriend or Toji's tortured longing for Momo are not revealed to the reader; they are just less important than the feelings of the female characters.

The series' focus on the female characters' emotional states is obvious in the differences between the way the female characters are drawn. In Peach Girl, as with many other shojo manga, the female characters are depicted with large, expressive eyes, while the male characters have more proportionately drawn eyes. Eyes are often considered windows to the soul, and Peach Girl offers much larger "windows" into the female characters.

Art of Shojo Manga

Shojo manga, or manga for girls, was developed in the early 1950s by male comics creators as Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989; see entry) and Tetsuya Chiba (1939–). When female comic writers and artists came to dominate the creation of shojo manga in Japan in the 1970s, the genre began to distinguish itself with a unique artistic presentation.

The female creators gave shojo manga pages a more emotional look. Avoiding the rigid borders that male creators used to divide the book page into neat rows, female creators developed a more fluid, multilayered page layout. They used differently shaped borders around scenes to highlight various levels of importance. Sometimes smaller shapes were layered on top of larger areas. Sometimes characters were drawn so large that they overlapped the borders of several scenes. Even more striking, however, was the graphic depiction of emotion. While the characters' large eyes still welled up with tears to show sadness, depictions of anger and frustration could permeate an entire page. Like other shojo manga creators, Ueda uses backdrops of flowers or hearts to show her characters' happiness and lightning strikes or blurry black backgrounds to show anger or despair.

Although Ueda had published a number of short-lived series, including Angel Wars, Glass Hearts, and Oh My Darling in Japan in the mid-1990s, Peach Girl remained her focus in the 2000s. With the series ongoing and published in the United States starting in 2003, Ueda related that she had "a lot of expectations" for thePeach Girl story development, but had not decided on an ending for the series, according to an interview in Peach: Miwa Ueda Illustrations. Ueda receives a great deal of mail from Peach Girl fans, but she confesses that she does not listen to them when developing her stories. "I'm thinking about my readers, but I won't be compelled to follow exactly what they truly want," she said in Peach. Only time will tell how Momo and Sae will mature.

For More Information


Peach: Miwa Ueda Illustrations. Los Angeles, CA: TokyoPop, 2000.

Web Sites

Arnold, Andrew. "Drawing in the Gals." Time. http://www.time.com/time/columnist/arnold/article/0,9565,589081,00.html (accessed on May 3, 2006).

Fletcher, Dani, and Jennifer Contino. "Oh Shoujo." Sequential Tart. http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/feb02/ao_0202_1.shtml (accessed on May 3, 2006).

"Manga Reviews." Sequential Tart. http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/june01/ao_0601_rev1.shtml (accessed on May 3, 2006).